Happy Independence Day India!
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now that time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of today’s midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
Fast forward 71 years and the date is August 15, 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing the Indian country. As he speaks, I watch my parents sit in a solemn silence. I couldn’t help but notice their heads slightly bowed to the hum of Vande Mataram while their eyes glimmered with orange, white, and green.
7,299 miles of water, land, and atmosphere lie between my parents and this foreign, intangible country. Yet, the patriotism, the respect, and the loyalty still remain. India is their motherland, where they took their first breath, where they took their first steps, where they played in the streets until night, where they and their siblings used to fight.
As I watched the jubilant Indian independence day celebrations on the television, I began to wonder what exactly happened in 1947 that spearheaded the bustling republic my parents once proudly called home. What were the circumstances? Who was involved? Why were they involved? I wanted to know not because it was world history but because it is my parents’ history and consequently, my own. I wanted to know where it all started, for them and for me. So, I began to google.
According to a Times of India article, Happy Independence Day 2018: The history and significance of our Independence Day, and a ThoughtCo article titled, What Was the Partition of India?, the history of India dated back to the East India Company’s arrival to the country in the 1600s. The company’s merchants began to exert military and administrative control, suppressing many of the Indian kingdoms and constructing footholds across the land.
Resentment spread amongst countrymen due to the company’s oppression, igniting many revolts against the British merchants, most notably the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Independence from the British was now more than just an idea — it was a movement. In the upcoming years, the struggle for independence, led by freedom fighters like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose, would take a horrible toll on both the British and Indian people.
Now with another exhausting war — World War II — behind them, the British were unsure of their financial ability to keep India within their grasp. So, the British government announced in early 1947 that they would transfer control to the Indian people by June 1948.
Bitter argument ensued over the new country’s government. The Muslim League, under the leadership of Muhammad Jinnah, demanded a separate Muslim State, knowing that if they remained unified with the Indian National Congress, the Hindus would have majority representation in the newly independent country. On the other hand, the Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted a unified country due to the Hindu majority in the Indian population.
However in March 1947, with a new viceroy — Lord Louis Mountbatten — came new plans. Mountbatten wanted to expedite the end of the British Raj and thus announced that independence to India would be granted on June 3rd of that same year. With little time to contemplate, Nehru and Jinnah had very little choice but to agree to the creation of two separate states: India and Pakistan.
I became very fascinated with this history. For two countries as bitter as India and Pakistan, it is very ironic how interconnected both nations truly are. Not too long ago, they shared the same desire for independence under the British Raj. They shared the tragedy of missing loved ones and bloody riots during the Partition of 1947. At one point, they spoke the same language, ate the same food, called the same place home. To me, the annual ceremony of Indian and Pakistani soldiers offering sweets to one other on their respective independence days confirms this inherent connection between the two countries.
I learned that Independence Day in India is observed to pay respect to those who believed in India when times were tough — this includes the freedom fighters we read about in textbooks and the unsung heroes that lost their lives to the independence effort without any hesitation. On August 15, the country is donned in majestic oranges, whites, and greens to honor the courage, truth, and auspiciousness of the land. However, I have also come to realize that Independence Day in India is truly a historic day because it marks the date when not only one, but when two new nations were born.